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When the Story Talks Back

by Patricia Bradley

Deception is the fourth and last book in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers books, and I have to tell you, this was a fun series to write. I love Natchez, Mississippi, and the Natchez Trace Parkway and enjoyed my research trips to the area. I especially enjoyed checking out the different places to eat . . . like Magnolia Grill, located at Natchez Under-the-Hill, and King’s Tavern, the oldest structure in the old river port city of Natchez. Both have fantastic food!

I do a lot of research for my books and would love to see the file Homeland Security has on me—and I’m sure they have one because you know those little pop-ups on websites that mention the website is tracking you? I’m pretty sure when I go to a website that gives details on bomb-making and guns and drugs, the website also sends at least one of those cookies to Homeland Security.

Besides researching bomb-making and how much noise a gun with a silencer makes, I researched a few other things in writing Deception. First of all, Madison Thorn is an ISB (Investigative Services Branch) ranger. Since the other books in the series have ISB rangers, I’d already conducted research and knew there are only 33 ISB rangers in the US, and that they are known as the FBI of the National Park Service. Prior to writing the series, I had no idea that ISB agents even existed.

I took a little liberty in this story by making Madison a white-collar crime investigator. As far as I know, there are no ISB rangers who work exclusively with white-collar crime. Another thing I learned as I wrote the series is that the Natchez Trace Park Rangers are all law enforcement rangers. And that’s where Clayton comes in—I wondered if he would be territorial and resent Madison coming into his district and conducting an investigation.

You might ask, why would I wonder that? After all, I’m creating this story and these characters, so I should be the one who decides what a character thinks and does. Not. At least not with my characters. They definitely have minds of their own, and if I try to make them do something they don’t want to do, they quit talking to me. And if a character quits talking, there goes the story.

In this story, Madison actually quit talking to me. When I started Deception, she was an FBI agent. Maybe 25 pages in, she wouldn’t let me in on her thoughts, and I couldn’t figure out why. Then it came to me—she wanted to be an ISB agent, not FBI. It required a little work on my part to go back and set that up. *sigh* But once I did, the writing went much smoother.

And then there was Clayton. Madison somehow got it in her head that he had taken part in her cousins’ bullying her when she was a little girl. She viewed him as an enemy and didn’t trust him. Of course that never happened—even as a kid, Clayton would never bully anyone. That was fun to work out.

I loved writing Clayton’s journey to dependence on God to lick his gambling addiction. And Madison’s journey to understanding who Jesus is and how forgiveness is for the one doing the forgiving. I’ve struggled with Madison’s journey myself.

And I want you to know not all writers work the way I do. Some writers even have characters who do what they tell them to do. I’ve often wondered what that would be like, but in the end, I like it that my characters are independent, and even stubborn, even when I see them heading toward the wrong decision. I’m yelling, “Don’t do that!” and can see God wanting to yell the same thing at me sometimes.

Patricia Bradley is a Selah winner, Carol finalist and winner of an Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award in Suspense, and three anthologies that included her stories debuted on the USA Today Best Seller List. She and her two cats call Northeast Mississippi home—the South is also where she sets most of her books.

You can connect with her at:

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